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Flooding hits West Coast closing highway as front sets in

Flooding has closed a highway on the West Coast as heavy rainfall lashes the region, with locals preparing for further weather disruption today.

half submerged
camper van

Westland Mayor Bruce Smith posted a video of the flooding on Facebook. Photo: Facebook / Westland Mayor Bruce Smith

The highway from Hari Hari to Franz Josef has been closed due to flooding.

A police spokesperson said some students were being escorted home from Harihari's South Westland Area School.

Civil Defence has opened a welfare centre for locals and tourists in Hari Hari and have other centres on standby.

The latest transport agency update said heavy rain in the area had shut a section of State Highway 6, while warnings were in place for the highway from Hokitika to Haast, and Fox Glacier to Haast.

It is understood the highway might be closed overnight as crews work to clear slips and debris.

There were reports of water across the road in South Westland, and more heavy rain was forecast.

Authorities are preparing for possible flooding in Hokitika as heavy rain makes its way up the West Coast.

Westland Civil Defence acting controller Simon Bastion said high tide was expected at midday and there are sandbags on standby if there's flooding from the Hokitika River.



"The river was reasonably empty before we started this so hopefully there's enough capacity in the river to take all that extra water," he said.

Mr Bastion said 200-300 mm of rain was forecast over the next 24 hours.

The Transport Agency was advising caution on State Highway 73 between Arthur's Pass to Otira because of strong winds.

Area warnings are also in place for State Highway 60 from Riwaka to Takaka due to forecast rain from now until tomorrow morning.

Strong wind warnings are in effect for Canterbury, including the alpine passes. Parts of Otago and Southland are also braced for heavy rain.

Earlier, MetService said an active front would bring heavy rain to parts of central and southern New Zealand.

Westland Mayor Bruce Smith said the worst of the rain had passed over causing trees and even a van to float down river.

Mr Smith said Hokitika township had escaped the flooding - but the river was at very high levels.

"[The campervan is] not parked there now - it might be heading to Aussie across the Tasman - and my instinct is that the weather event has passed over the top of us and I think the worst is over," he said.

Mr Smith said locals stayed inside with their gumboots at the ready and tourists have sought shelter at the pub.

"The tourists were just saying look head for the pub - go and have a meal, have a beer and sit by the fire," he said.

Mr Smith said the clean-up would probably begin later today.

Meanwhile, in stark contrast farther north settled and warmer weather continues ahead of the front.

Temperatures along the East Coast in particular are set to reach the 20s today.

The highest temperatures forecast today are around Napier, expected to reach 29C.

Further up the coast at Gisborne temperatures are expected to hit 25C.

Similar temperatures are expected around Palmerston North and the Wellington region.

Christchurch will experience the hottest weather in the South Island, forecast to reach 26C.

Auckland and Northland temperatures will hover around the low 20s, with some light showers expected.

Showers are also expected across western areas of the North Island.


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